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Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2008
Theme: Transforming Communities: Beyond Sustainability
A Call for Proposals

On September 3-5, 2008, pedestrian and bicycle advocates; planning, public health and transportation professionals; and many more will gather in Seattle, Washington, for the 15th International Conference on Bicycling & Walking.

This represents the first time in its 30-year history that the conference has repeated a city venue, and it’s being done for good reason. In the 20 years since Pro Bike was held there, Seattle and the communities of Puget Sound have introduced and actively implemented a variety of policies, plans, and programs featuring new and improved cycling and pedestrian facilities. They have defined new priorities and are creating sustainable community systems that feature bicycling and walking as essential elements.

Seattle and other northwestern cities (Portland, Eugene, and many others) have distinguished themselves as communities that "get it," that have embraced sustainability, that are leaders in climate change issues, that are making major investments in bicycling and walking.

Through the Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2008 conference we want to showcase some of these accomplishments and programs, and explore how they were brought about. But even more important, we want to provide a "technology transfer," and inspire hundreds of other communities around the United States to undertake similar programs. 

And finally, we want to join with the leaders, planners, and advocates of the Pacific Northwest to envision what's next. Where do we go from here to transform our communities?

As NCBW Executive Director Bill Wilkinson points out, "We know how to design streets and highways to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. We know about transit-oriented development and walkable, active communities. We know what the issues are for aging in place. But we're not getting a lot of the 'institutionalization,' the setting of priorities and initiatives that now have to take place to bring to bear the knowledge that we've developed over 35 years to change the practice and produce different outcomes.”

It's clear that we're not going to achieve significant transportation mode shifts to walking and bicycling by talking only to ourselves. We have to reach out to and involve a variety of new partners, as they've demonstrated in Seattle and the Puget Sound. In the past decade many positive and highly beneficial linkages have been made between walking and cycling interests and public health. Now, more new partners need to be engaged and enlisted in our efforts to effect change, particularly the economic forces of business and development interests, advocates for seniors and children, those working for social justice and inclusion in a broader environmental coalition, and others. Only with such an expanded approach will we make the case for bicycling and walking a part of a sustainable future.

We’ll gather a wide range of presenters to produce panel discussions, workshops, and poster sessions. If you would like to be a presenter at Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2008, review the materials below and then complete the on-line submission form at: before February 1, 2008.

Under the conference theme we’ll focus on a variety of critical topics:

  • Demonstrating best practices – Incorporating cycling and pedestrian projects in planning, engineering, design, and political funding for transportation and broad support for Complete Streets.
  • Better communication – Techniques for communicating clear messages to convince politicians, elected officials, other interest groups, business leaders, and transportation agencies/engineers that biking and walking and active communities are far from frivolous and need to be seen as critical, viable transportation options
  • Research – What research do we have on hand that can be used in making the case for bicycling and walking as sustainable transportation modes? What research do we need that isn’t currently being conducted, and how are we going to go about getting that information?
  • The Economics – Showing the economic savings and efficiencies of sustainable community development (reduced parking, greater densities and mixed uses to reduce auto-dependency, household savings from lower-cost transportation options). 
  • Healthy/Active Communities – Show how urban planners and health departments can better work together to develop policies and plans that support active transportation modes and help reduce obesity.
  • Education – Show how we can reach and teach all segments of the population about key needs for change.  How can the educational system be better used to raise awareness? And, what does it really takes to provide the conditions conducive to children bicycling and walking to school?
  • Trails –Creating trails that connect to the places people want to go (parks, shops, work), integrating existing trails networks, and overcoming barriers to trail development.
  • Sustainable organizations and initiatives – How do we continue to build, nurture, and sustain a grassroots advocacy movement to bring about the changes we want to see in our communities?
  • The Basics – Yes, we realize that there are new people entering the field all the time, and some need to “learn the ropes.” We’ll offer a collection of “Bike-Ped 101” presentations and workshops during the conference and during the days surrounding the conference.

Treat these as "starter topics." In suggesting your own presentation subjects, keep in mind the theme of Sustainability. Tell us how what you're proposing will inspire us to create a future where bicycling and walking are integral parts of our communities.

The Pro Walk/Pro Bike conferences have traditionally attracted a diverse audience, reflecting the fact that building better communities takes all of us. It also reflects the fact that in our world the lines are often blurred between "professional" and "advocate" ... as we believe they should be! When we convene in Seattle the folks in the chairs at the opening session this broad and diverse audience will include:

  • people attending their first conference, and people returning for more
  • advocacy organization leaders, staff and volunteers
  • people from neighborhood groups and active living projects
  • personnel from many new Safe Routes to School programs
  • mayors and other elected officials
  • staff from Federal agencies, state agencies, MPOs and RPCs, and local governments
  • planners, engineers, landscape architects, architects, public health professionals, teachers, pedestrian and bicycle professionals
  • people from national, state, regional and local organizations
  • people interested in engineering, education, enforcement, and encouragement

As we review presentation and session proposals, we will look closely at the learning objectives you list at the top of the form. What will your session's attendee leave the room with when you've completed your presentation or after he or she has looked at your poster? The review committee will watch for specifics such as:

  • New ideas, insights, findings, information, tools & techniques, approaches, knowledge, research
  • The voice of experience: what works/worked, what didn’t work and why
  • Discussions, debates, and structured deliberation: working together to advance our understanding and knowledge
  • Teaching how to get the job done (e.g., fund-raising, data collection and analysis, local organizing)

And over all, the element of sustainability: the challenges we face, visions for the future, overcoming opposition, becoming mainstream

As you consider developing a presentation proposal, give careful thought to the format you would like to use. We’ve provided some estimates on the number of presentations we anticipate accepting for each format category.

  1. Traditional, 20-minute presentation (grouped with like topics) [40 – 60]
  2. Panel presentation on a single topic with 2-3 presenters and a moderator  [7 – 10]
  3. Poster presentation  [80 – 120]
  4. Guided discussions/workshops (roundtables)  [5 – 7]

Note that most sessions are divided into blocks of one-and-a-half hours, with breaks of one-half hour between. For grouped (20-minute) and panel presentations, don’t overload your presentation proposal with too many presenters. It generally takes a few minutes for people to get settled, and for a moderator to introduce the presentation members. If you have too many presenters, either the overall presentation is going to be rushed, or the last presenter is going to get short shrift, which is unfair to both the presenter and the audience.

IMPORTANT: Have your speakers lined up before you submit your proposal. Proposals that indicate “speakers yet to be determined” will be set aside and will not be chosen. We’ve experienced problems in setting up past conference programs with speakers being “double-booked” for sessions, which requires last minute shuffling. If you know you want someone specific to present on your panel, contact them first!

On the on-line submission form you will be asked to describe your proposed presentation, your learning objectives, and what format your presentation will take. Please note that if you are proposing a panel discussion around a single topic, you must indicate the names of all of your intended presenters (see note above).

At the end of your proposal, we ask you to write the presentation description that will appear in the program book should your presentation be chosen. This description will do the double-duty of “selling” the proposal reviewers on your presentation, as well as attracting audience members to your presentation, so spend some time on it. Stay within the prescribed maximum word count of 70 words. Here’s a link to the presentation descriptions from the 2006 Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference in Madison, to give you some ideas of things you’ll want to cover.

To complete the on-line submission form, click here.

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